IN the past six -months, we have witnessed some of the worst human created and natural disasters in the world. An AirAsia Airbus A320 crashing into the Java Sea destroying 160 lives; the tragic massacre of 150 innocent passengers against the jugged rocks of the French Alps by a deranged German Wings Airbus A320 pilot. We couldn’t forget the drowning of more than one -thousand four -hundred Africans in the Mediterranean Sea fleeing from poverty and wars on the African continent.
Just two weeks back, the earth shook in Nepal, flattening whole towns and sending kopje-size ice rocks tumbling onto hapless tourists around Mount Everest base camps. To date, almost seven-thousand people are known to have perished. Come to think of it – nature and human error are not yet done, because there is one disaster or another in the offing! Man made and nature-related disasters, like car accidents, are not mutually exclusive. There is no guarantee that if a disaster befalls a nation, it will not happen again – Tragic!
But I have always thanked God – and hope you do – that apart from a few minor weather, passenger transport and dam water-related disasters our country, Zimbabwe, has been spared – so far – from massive, earth shattering carnage. What actually sobers me on the referred disasters is the size and magnitude of international support; the outpouring of collectively shared grief exhibited by all and sundry – rescue ships, cargo planes filled with water and food packs, doctors and thousands of volunteers helping with specialist services.
However, I have oftentimes wondered if – and I hope not – Zimbabwe were to experience such similar natural or man-made tribulation, would we have enough friends the world over to support us in times of dire need, given our soiled reputation where we are known the world over for all the wrong things including abductions and disappearances, brutal and violent elections and primitive arrogance? This is certainly not the first time common innocent Zimbabwean citizens have plunged into international abuse by deeds of rogue leadership.
Ian Smith engulfed our country into crisis when he declared fake independence and ‘sovereignty’ from Great Britain in his 1965 Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) in 1965. To add to the wounds that had already been inflicted on us by Cecil John Rhodes’ 1890 and 1893 colonisation, Mr. Smith and his Rhodesia Front (RF) perpetuated more political, social and economic segregation on us as Black Africans. Our humanity, dignity, spirituality and pride were decimated as Smith’s government enacted punishing racial and land laws – shifting our ancestors from their land and preventing them from accessing our own ancestral natural resources. Luckily, the world was watching. Progressive governments lobbied for economic and political sanctions that prompted the United Nations to impose a blockade on Ian Smith and his RF gauchos in 1966. Many countries – save for a few renegade regimes like Apartheid South Africa –deserted Rhodesia and left it isolated, hurtful and irritable.Advertisement
However, because the white Rhodesians had invested heavily in education (even though discriminatory) and innovation, the country’s infrastructure and economy never stopped growing. Author Ken Flower, in his book Serving Secretly: An Intelligence Chief on Record, Rhodesia into Zimbabwe , narrated how the Rhodesians pulled all sorts of tricks in the bag to ensure their products and commodities – fruits of black labour and white capital – were traded via a complicated ‘sanctions busting’ system.
Somewhat ironically, racist Rhodesia became one the most developed countries south of the Sahara, second only to South Africa. In fact, at independence in 1980, Robert Mugabe inherited a sophisticated infrastructure and high quality human capital, which was the envy of many an African country. Yet Ian Smith accumulated more enemies than friends, thus it was relatively easy for the nationalist leadership to wage a protracted liberation war from outside the borders.
The nexus of our struggle for independence from 1963 – 1980 was the amazing resourcefulness and generosity of friends, top of which were Kenneth Kaunda (Zambia) and Samora Machel (Mozambique) Maummar Gaddaffi (Libya) . Moreover, the OAU African liberation committee ensured that countries like Botswana, Nigeria and Tanzania received all the moral support they required to help black Rhodesians recover their economic, political, social and spiritual dignity.
Scholarships from within the international academic community in the British Commonwealth, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Otto Benecke Stiftung and many others channelled resources to sustain young black Rhodesians in pursuit of higher education abroad. Most colleges in Africa – University of Dar es Salaam, University of Lusaka, University of Botswana, Ibadan University, and Fourah Bay College – enrolled young African refugees. Thousands others attended colleges in Australia, Germany, then Soviet Union, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Canada, Jamaica and United States of America. Back ‘home’ in the war zone, countries such as Libya, Ethiopia, Angola, Tanzania, Zambia and Mozambique ensured that the guerrillas received adequate military training.
Arms of war were supplied mainly by Russia and China who also provided specialist military intelligence training to many liberation war stalwarts including the likes of Dumiso Dabengwa and Wilfred Mhanda. Both ZIPRA and ZANLA benefitted from strategic alliances with Umkhonto weSizwe, SWAPO, FRELIMO and PAC. The Nordic countries were instrumental in giving political and moral support in many international fora as well as supplying food, clothing and medicines to refugees and trainees in base camps in Tanzania, Mozambique and Zambia. True friendship, indeed!
Why I am saying all this is because it does not matter how endowed or rich a country is; its development agenda cannot be complete without friends. International friendship – garnered through economic blocs like ECOWAS, SADC, COMESA; political gatherings like UN and AU – is critical for us all. It is the capillary, the umbilical cord through which crucial financial, technical and trade support flows to any country, especially poor countries like Zimbabwe.
Even where one is a villager eMaphisa (Kezi), kwaHandina (Rusape) or koSogwala (Lower Gweru), Zimbabwe’s positive relationship with Denmark, Ireland, Japan, Brazil or New Zealand has benefits. No nation is an island. At the village school, grocery shop, clinic, dip tank, grinding mill or church, one will always find a piece of evidence of friendship with countries everywhere. Medicines, books, sports equipment, fertilizers, buses, bicycles, solar panels – all these objects of convenience are there because Zimbabwe does one thing or another at international level. The world is now a global village, thus we are all global villagers!
The tragedy is that, today Zimbabwe is one of the poorest of countries south of the Sahara because President Robert Mugabe and his Zanu PF ruling party have destroyed friendship with countries that matter. They talk of ‘mega deals’ signed with Russia, China and South Africa. Their partisan State-controlled media ‘pollutes’ our ears daily with propaganda of ‘successful’ trips made by President Mugabe with large delegations to remote parts of the planet, yet hundreds of companies close every month and 90% of Zimbabwean adults do not have secure jobs.
Even Zanu PF apparatchiks like Walter Mzembi have complained that political bickering in his party is anathema to tourism. Former Zanu PF legislator and land invader Temba Mliswa now confesses how violent his party is in elections. Could we be fooled by Africans who applaud and give President Mugabe standing ovations whenever he routinely rails on the West and imperialism, some of it imagined? Certainly not! A villager eMaphisa, kwaHandina or ko Sogwala with no electricity, medicines, food, fertilizer and school fees benefits nothing from applause proffered to President Mugabe at a public meeting in Soweto.
Long speeches in Addis Ababa, New York, Jakarta and Moscow do not get us true friendship at the global stage and certainly do not put food on our tables or clean drinking water in our taps or electricity in our houses and factories. Hate language does not increase beds in our children’s dormitories or books in our college libraries.
Our leaders’ primitive, spiteful arrogance does not open more export markets or keep our tourist destinations busy. Why can Zimbabwe not be like a normal, civilised country so we can attract and retain true friendship that supports economic development and higher quality of life? Just think about it.